So you think you know all about saving energy and water? Think again. We talk to the top earthwise experts for new and different eco-tips – electronic skateboards, anyone?
1. Brush, brush, brush
“Look after the environment and reduce toxins passing into your body at the same time by using a body brush that hasn't been sprayed with chemicals,” says Jodie Smith, director of Bode Care (www.bodecare.com). “Natural bristle brushes which are heat-treated provide peace of mind because you’re not using something potentially dangerous on your skin, you’re helping conserve virgin forests, and also practising an energising natural health technique.” Vegan-friendly Bode Care brushes are made from certified FSC timber with genuine Tampico agave plant bristles which don't need pesticides to grow and are cleaned only with boiling water before being inserted into the brush. The timber is finished with natural oil to protect the wood.
2. Build mindfully
“When renovating or building, keep sustainability front of mind to create a home that is energy-efficient and healthy to live in,” says Anthony Lieberman of Your Future Home (www.yourfuturehome.com.au). “Your design should shade you from the summer sun but allow the winter sun in. Choose building materials and products that have been made ethically with sustainable materials, and paints with no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).”
3. Cut down on cars
“For every 10 people in Australia, there are 7.3 motor vehicles - and not all of us are of driving age!” says Aimee Marks, founder of TOM Organic (www.tomorganic.com.au). “We’re a country reliant on cars and it’s hard to change, but it’s never been more important that we do. Cars are one of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprint. Yes, sometimes it’s impossible to get from one place to another without your car - but most of us still live in cities, so if you can, ride a bike, car pool, use public transport, or walk.”
4. Clean green
“Australian households do approximately 500 million loads of washing per year, consuming 120,000 tonnes of chemicals,” adds Marks. “How you do that washing can make a huge difference. Choose an eco-friendly washing powder or liquid so chemicals don’t end up in waterways. Use bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar to remove stains and odours. Wash at 30 degrees or less. Fill your machine right up, don’t just wash a few items at a time, to reduce water and energy usage. Hang clothes out to dry. If you can, recycle grey water (the water that’s pumped out of your machine) and use it to water your garden.”
5. Change your tampon
“The average woman uses 12,000 tampons over a lifetime and it’s not just about what we put inside us that matters: it’s about where it’s coming from and where it ends up,” warns Marks. “Conventional cotton is one of the world’s most heavily sprayed crops, and these chemicals end up in the air, our waterways, our bodies, and eventually landfill. Many tampons are made from rayon and plastic, the production of which involves labour-intensive chemical processes and results in a product which takes a lot longer to break down than cotton. Organic tampons and pads are free from chemicals, bleaches and plastics, and also biodegradable. Stop using plastic tampon applicators – hundreds of thousands of them end up in our waterways every year. And never, ever flush sanitary products down the toilet.”
6. Swap slowly
“Changing products can seem really daunting (and expensive) at first,” says Kylie Davies of Tree Hugga (www.treehugga.com.au). “The best way is to do it slowly. Use up what you have in the cupboards so you’re not contributing to further waste. Then, each time you need new toothpaste, body lotion, or dish liquid, opt for the organic, eco-friendly versions. In 12 months, your whole household will have just about changed over.”
7. Cull the clutter
Rose Read of not-for-profit recycler Mobile Muster (www.mobilemuster.com.au) says, “You can ethically get rid of broken and unwanted mobile phones - choose from over 4,000 drop-off points, or pick up a reply-paid satchel from Australia Post, or simply download a reply-paid label at Mobile Muster.”
8. Sleep smarter
“Use a quilt cover one size bigger than your bed, suggests Jane Tepper of EcoSleep Australia (www.ecosleepaustralia.com.au). “For children, you can tuck it under the mattress to create a toasty cocoon. For adults, it means you have more to pull across the bed so no one ends up cold! A top sheet reduces your washing of a bulky quilt cover and also keeps you warmer and more settled while you sleep. In summer you can leave it to hang over the sides of the bed for a looser, cooler, feel.”
9. Spend to save
When was the last time your gutters were cleaned? Do you have any leaks? “Get the professionals in to fix your household issues,” advises Tim Wolfenden of Make it Cheaper (www.makeitcheaper.com.au). “In particular, ensure your home is well insulated: the less opportunity for hot or cold air to leave the house, the more comfortable you’ll be, and the less energy you’ll waste."
10. Straws for thought
Did you know that the common plastic straw is one of the biggest contributors to landfill and ocean garbage? “Around 69 million of them are served up every day in the USA, just from McDonalds, let alone all the other fast food restaurants and cafes,” says Haley Peachy of Peachy Clean (www.peachyclean.com.au). “Instead, carry your own reusable straw with you - try the Glass Dharma reusable glass straws.”
11. Pick better paper
"One of the biggest wastage items is paper products - tissues, toilet paper, and kitchen towels,” says Geoff Arden of Greencane Paper (www.greencane.com). “Change to sustainable recycled paper products with no impact on the environment."
12. Go skateboarding
“My favourite way to go green is by electric skateboarding instead of driving, wherever possible,” says Nina Tovey, director of Yoke Communications (www.yokecommunications.com.au). “I love Evolve Skateboards: they are designed and built in Australia, are super light, made with bamboo decks, and use 20 times less energy than a car - with no parking fees! They weigh less than a bike, can be charged through a standard power outlet, get you anywhere within a 35 km radius on one battery, and are a fun way to get around.”
13. Play dirty
“Green clay has a long history of use as both a medicine and cosmetic,” says naturopath Kate Johnson (www.korewellbeing.com.au). “Used internally, it acts as a detoxifying and chelating agent, binding with heavy metals, as well as balancing pH levels and soothing the digestive tract. Externally, it purifies the skin and promotes healing, as well as increasing circulation and relieving inflammation and muscle pain.” Note: Green clay can be quite detoxifying, so work with a health professional if you plan to ingest it.
14. Share and care
Yes, driving is bad for the environment, but there are still some trips you need a car for. Founders of Car Next Door, Will Davies and Dave Trumbull (www.carnextdoor.com.au), suggest joining a neighbour-to-neighbour car-sharing scheme, where you swap car ownership for pay-per use access. “Putting a value on each car trip motivates you to use a car only when you really need to. That's great for the environment and for your hip pocket.”
15. Worship water
Treat water as the precious, life-giving resource that it is. Install a water-saving shower head, turn the tap off when brushing your teeth, recycle household grey water, and collect and use rainwater where you can. “Take a reusable stainless steel water bottle with you instead of buying bottled water. If you’re worried about contaminants or don't like the taste of tap water, invest in a water filter,” say Ecostore owners, Mel and Malcolm Rands (www.ecostore.com.au).
16. Wrap it up
“I recycle my three year-old's paintings as wrapping paper! It's art and green and I couldn't bear to throw them away and I have so many as well!” says Andi Lew, author of Eat Fat, Be Thin (www.eatfatbethin.com.au).
17. Waste not
Did you know that food waste in Australian landfills is the second largest source of methane? “Plan ahead when shopping and only buy what you need to reduce wastage,” says Joanna Cozens of Daily Organic (www.dailyorganic.com.au). “Make sure you can see what you have: keep veggies in the top section of the fridge, rather than the crisper - that way, you won’t forget what’s there. If food is near its use-by date then freeze it, or whip it into a soup or stock.”
18. Grow your own
Growing fresh produce is satisfying, good for the environment, and it tastes great. “Selecting varieties of herbs and vegetables that suit your growing conditions is vital,” says Clint Kenny, owner of The Garden Tool Shop (www.gardentoolshop.com.au). “Share the surplus with friends and neighbours. Backyard chickens are highly efficient composting machines that are friendly, easy to look after, and reward us fresh, golden-yolked eggs!”
19. Think small
"If you live in the city and only have a small balcony or courtyard, you can still grow your own food in abundance with minimal expense and energy,” says Emily Uebergang of The Urbaneco Life (www.theurbanecolife.com). “Get innovative and look around for materials that you can upcycle, such as buckets, baskets, sinks, even old tyres and green bags - a little imagination will turn the smallest space into a productive edible garden. Provided plants have adequate drainage and nutrient-rich soil, you’ll be surprised what they will grow in!”
20. Don't be a pane
“The wrong kind of windows can be 'thermal holes' in your home, making rooms hotter in summer and colder in winter,” warns Alexandra Cronan of the Window Film Association (www.wfaanz.org.au). “New units can be expensive, plus the old windows compound our waste problem when they're sent to landfill. There is another solution - window film. It is easily retrofitted to existing windows and is significantly cheaper than replacing them. Most importantly, film offers comparable energy benefits to new, high performing windows: Low-E films give year-round protection in any climate, retaining heat in winter and rejecting it in summer, while solar control films reduce up to 99 percent UV radiation, 79 percent of total solar energy, and 90 percent of glare. In many cases, the energy saved on the film means it pays for itself within three years.”
21. Pack a 'nude' lunch
Did you know Australia is now the second largest producer of waste per person in the western world? School lunches contribute to this, with the average lunch-toting child generating around 30 kg of litter a year. Every year in Australia over 1 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away while only 30 percent are recycled – that means 700 million plastic water bottles end up in landfill or floating in the ocean annually. That’s enough bottles to wrap around the planet 149 times! “Do your bit to reduce this by packing a school lunch without including any packaging, juice boxes, plastic bottles or cling film,” says Lindy Cook, naturopath, nutritionist and owner of My Green Lunch Box (www.mygreenlunchbox.com.au). “Use a lunch box with compartments and dividers for separate snacks, and reusable sandwich wrap. Changing everyday choices, like kids’ school lunch-boxes, creates a simple way to be sustainable on a daily basis without even having to think about it.”